Legal Momentum Hails New Legislation Giving Common Sense Protections For Pregnant Workers

Legal Momentum Hails New Legislation Giving Common Sense Protections For Pregnant Workers

Date: 
May 8, 2012
Media Contact: 

Astrid Fiano
afiano@legalmomentum.org
212.413.6530; cell 347.266.5504

Michelle Caiola
mcaiola@legalmomentum.org
cell 914.325.7013

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will Increase Productivity, Safety, and Economic Security

May 8, 2012 – Legal Momentum has announced its enthusiastic support for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) being introduced by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and other House representatives on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. The bill requires employers to accommodate the demands of pregnancy unless the accommodation imposes an undue hardship. While some employers already engage in such consideration for pregnant employees, this bill ensures no woman is unnecessarily denied a paycheck during a time in her and her family’s life when economic security is paramount. Legal Momentum will be participating in today’s Washington, D.C. press conference announcing the bill.

“Fairness and equality sometimes require the provision of a temporary accommodation,” said Elizabeth Grayer, President of Legal Momentum. “While the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, enacted in 1978, represented great progress for working women, time has shown that pregnant workers need greater protection. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will enable many more women to continue working productively for longer periods of time while pregnant, thereby allowing them to earn needed income for themselves and their families.”

“The safeguards provided for in this bill are particularly important for women working in low-wage jobs that provide few benefits, and in jobs that are physically strenuous,” said Michelle Caiola, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Momentum. “In the last few years, Legal Momentum has represented women who have lost income and other job benefits because the law as it exists lacks clarity and common sense provisions to address the realities of pregnancy.”

Legal Momentum has represented and assisted in several cases demonstrating the critical need for the PWFA, including:

  • An eight-weeks pregnant Fleet Service Clerk for a major airline in JFK airport, who was denied the benefits of the company’s “light duty policy” that was available to other employees, and that would have allowed her to fulfill most of the duties of her job, except lifting certain amounts. Rather than receive an accommodation, she was sent home on unpaid leave.
  • A pregnant firefighter in Michigan, who was told by her doctor that she was “fit for duty,” but given a lifting restriction. For months she worked while hiding her pregnancy because she feared for her job. Eventually she made a formal request for job modifications she had seen granted to others unable to work full-duty. Her employer denied her request and immediately placed her on leave, resulting in her loss of income, pension, seniority and other benefits.
  • A ticket agent for an airline in Louisiana, who was informed by the airline that asking for medically-required work restrictions would cause her to be immediately placed on unpaid leave. Her doctor gave her lifting restrictions early in her pregnancy. She believed she would be accommodated because the airline had provided her “light duty” during her first pregnancy. Unable to afford months of not having a paycheck, she continued to work 10 and 12-hour days on her feet and to lift heavy bags on and off the baggage ramp. Towards the end of her pregnancy, she incurred a condition called stress-induced toxemia. As a result, she went into labor prematurely and her child has suffered numerous health complications.
  • A postal carrier in Iowa, who was singled out and reprimanded for being out of “full uniform” and sent home. The carrier was seven months pregnant and walking long routes carrying postal bags and delivering mail. She had been wearing a promotional post office t-shirt that accommodated her pregnant size at the time and was unaware of the availability of maternity-issued uniforms.

Please contact us for more information on these compelling real-life examples and this pressing issue. Legal Momentum has long been in the forefront in the battle for workplace rights for women, largely focusing on helping women in low-wage jobs and women attempting to make inroads in occupations from which females historically have been excluded.

About Legal Momentum

Legal Momentum is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1970 to advance the rights of women by using the power of the law and creating innovative public policy in three broad areas: economic justice, freedom from gender-based violence and equality under the law.  For more information visit www.legalmomentum.org.

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